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NLI celebrates Irish publishing with acquisition of The O’Brien Press publishing archive

Archive includes first edition titles from Marita Conlon-McKenna, Éamonn McThomáis, Eoin Colfer, Siobhán Parkinson, Polly Devlin, Frank McGuinness and William Trevor

Tuesday, 19 December 2023
Ciara Kerrigan, Ivan O'Brien, Dr Audrey Whitty and Colette O'Flaherty

Ciara Kerrigan, Ivan O'Brien, Dr Audrey Whitty and Colette O'Flaherty

The National Library of Ireland has today (19.12.23) announced the acquisition of The O’Brien Press Collection.

Dating back to the establishment of the Irish family-run publishing house in 1974, the collection contains thousands of items, including manuscripts, first editions of O’Brien Press titles and pieces of original artwork.

It has been acquired by the National Library from Ivan O’Brien, whose late father, Michael O’Brien – a powerhouse in the world of publishing in Ireland, as well as internationally – set up the publishing house in 1974.

Celebrating almost 50 years in Irish publishing, the extensive collection runs from 1974 to the end of September 2023. It comprises more than 100 boxes of editorial material, such as annotated manuscripts, texts and related papers, approximately 75,000 items of correspondence and 1,500 pieces of original artwork.

Commenting, Director of the National Library of Ireland, Dr Audrey Whitty said: “The NLI is Ireland’s proud custodian of many extraordinary national collections, and we are thrilled to receive this incredible range of materials.

“The O’Brien Press Archive is a significant and comprehensive record of almost 50 years of Irish writing, publishing and book illustration. It will be of interest to a wide range of scholars, including writers and illustrators, literary scholars and historians. It is particularly poignant to receive this collection, which in large part is due to the skill of Michael O’Brien, who died last year.

“The National Library of Ireland endeavors to protect, share and make accessible Ireland’s precious literary materials, spanning generations of publishing, to people across the country and the world. I thank Ivan for gifting this wonderful archive of Irish literary history to the National Library and I look forward to sharing it with the public once the archive has been assessed, conserved and catalogued.”

Managing Director of The O’Brien Press, Ivan O’Brien added: “The O’Brien Press is honoured to mark our 50th year with the passing of our company archive into the safe hands of the National Library of Ireland. Our founder and publisher, Michael O’Brien, passed away suddenly last year, but having our archive homed in the National Library was his longtime wish and we know that he would be incredibly proud today.

“When the press was founded in 1974, there was little in the way of an indigenous publishing industry here. The O’Brien Press began at Michael’s kitchen table and, with the help of an army of dedicated and creative staff over the years, it has evolved into one of the country’s leading independent publishers.

“We are delighted that future researchers will have the opportunity to trace the massive changes over the lifetime of the press and how the process of creating books has been transformed by waves of technological change.

“We thank the National Library of Ireland for taking our archive into their care and for safeguarding the company’s unique legacy, which we continue to build on.”

The O’Brien Press Archive will be available to the public following cataloguing.